Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers readers' questions about the Ravens' win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 and more.
What's your take on the Ravens after only two games? The offense looked bad in the first game, much improved in the second game. The defense has looked good in most areas in both games. Are the Steelers not that good, or are the Ravens gradually improving? -- Craig G. Winchester, Va.
Craig, I think it is a combination of both the Ravens improving and the Steelers being that bad. The Ravens need to continue to grow into offensive coordinator Gary Kubiack's offense. It is going to take a few weeks.
The Steelers barely scratched out a win versus the Browns and then got spanked by the Ravens. They are probably in the same boat as the Ravens with 8-8 being realistic, 9-7 hopeful and 10-6 a dream.
As for the defense, the Ravens are playing well. I expect improvement once cornerback Lardarius Webb comes back and Chykie Brown goes back to the bench.
I can understand why Courtney Upshaw would have been flagged for his spear hit on Ben Roethlisberger. What I don't understand is how Vontaze Burfict was not flagged for his spear hit on Joe Flacco last Sunday. I realize that he paid the price with a concussion, but is the difference the consistency in the calls or am I missing something technical? -- Brendan J.
The lack of consistency in NFL officiating is the only consistent thing about NFL officiating. Every crew calls the game differently. It is just the way it is.
Mike, the Ravens certainly looked impressive in their win over the Steelers. Do you think the return of a healthy Lardarius Webb could be the final piece for a successful run to the playoffs? -- Paul C.
Paul, take it easy on the purple Kool-Aid. As referenced above, I think the defense will improve once Webb comes back, but I am not sold on this team making a playoff run being 1-1 with 8 games still to come on the road. As I said last week, 9-7 or 8-8 seems realistic with this team.
Can and should the Ravens take Ray Rice back into the organization when the NFL's indefinite suspension is lifted? It is my opinion that Art Modell would have not reacted the same way that Steve Bisciotti did. Bisciotti is more the corporate magnate, not really caring as much about the players as the bottom line. He is not the man Modell was to the players. This offense is perfect for Rice. Everyone that I was sitting near said Rice got a raw deal. I believe the majority of Ravens fans support him coming back to the team sometime in the future. -- Dan C.
Can the Ravens bring back Ray Rice if the NFL lifts his indefinite suspension? Yes. Should they? No. Do I think Rice got a raw deal? No. Did Janay Rice get a raw deal? Yes. There is absolutely no reason for a man to hit a woman. The initial video that leaked of this incident was revolting. The second video was horrendously worse. There is just no defense for what Rice did before he got in the elevator, while he was in the elevator, and after he exited the elevator. None.
As to your point about a difference between former Ravens owner Art Modell and current Ravens owner Steve Biscotti, I believe you are correct. I think the upper management of the Ravens handled this incident about as poorly as possible. The NFL as a whole has handled this incident as poorly as possible.
While each team is constructed a little different, if you look at the Cowboys, Patriots, and Saints, who have all had high profile incidents within each organization, the owner, GM, and Coach have all been in front of the media and answered questions. They have not attempted to just have one member, as head coach John Harbaugh did, give vague answers to only a handfull of questions, then have private interviews with one member of selected local media outlets.
They have not put up good guy articles on their websites about the offending player, and have not had to react a second time to a single incident. The Ravens just got this one wrong.
In the preseason, we saw and heard about how much Kyle Juszczyk was going to be an important weapon in Gary Kubiak's offensive schemes. Kubiak was even quoted as saying he "expects 40-50 catches" out of him this season. So far, he has yet to make a reception. What gives? -- Wayne M.
How would you like the Ravens coaching staff to talk about their players? They should talk each player up, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk is a prefect example. I like what I saw from the Ravens' offense last week: a much improved running game, with a trimmed down passing game, and a focus on playmakers. The receiving game focused on Steve Smith and Torrey Smith with Jacoby Jones, and the tight ends sprinkled in. Keep it that way.
I've noticed that Terrell Suggs seems to crash when he has contain. He seems to be getting exploited. Will the Ravens continue to allow him to freelance? -- Terrance G.
I don't think the Ravens want linebacker Terrell Suggs to freelance at all. Suggs has been successful his whole career being a hustle player. He never quits on a play, which has allowed him to become the Ravens' all-time leader in sacks. He has played well against the run throughout his career as well, but age is catching up to Sizzle. He needs to stay at home because crashing down the line just isn't working anymore. It is reckless and opposing teams are taking advantage.
Can you please shine some light as to why Arthur Brown has been inactive the past two weeks? Isn't this kind of strange for a second-round pick from just a year ago? -- Gary R.
Linebacker Arthur Brown just hasn't performed as the Ravens expected he would. The drafting of CJ Mosley in the first round this offseason tells you all you need to know.
How does Marshal Yanda's health look? He doesn't seem to be getting a push off the ball or holding blocks. He doesn't look like he's playing at a Pro Bowl level. -- John D.
It is obvious guard Marshal Yanda is not playing to the level he has in the past. I think it is pretty clear that his shoulder injury is either still bothering him or still in his head. That being said, when a guard is making the kind of money that Yanda is, he will be in the starting lineup. Against the Steelers, most of the Ravens' rushing yards came behind Yanda and right tackle Rick Wagner. Yanda still has a lot left in the tank.
One thing I've noticed over the years with Flacco -- the sooner the next game is, the better he plays, and the longer time between games, the longer he takes to get in a rhythm. What are your thoughts? -- Peter M., Ecuador
Peter, quarterback Joe Flacco falls into and out of his rhythm from game to game, or half to half, or quarter to quarter, or series to series, or play to play. In other words, I don't think it matters if he plays every seven days, or every four day, as was the case last week. It just matters how he feels at that moment. He has been called Joe Cool, but never Joe Consistency.
If you had to name one player who has done well but not received much attention in the first two games, who would you pick? -- Ed S., Abingdon
Ed, I think the player who has stood out the most to me is cornerback Jimmy Smith. I want to reference one specific play. During the Steelers game, the Steelers ran a wide receiver screen toward Smith's side of the field. Smith took on his blocker, held his ground, then got enough push to move his man back into the running lane, and made the tackle at the line of scrimmage. That was a big boy play. It was impressive and what Ravens defense is all about.